DREW STUBBS WAS HAPPY TO BE IN COLORADO AND THE ROX WERE GLAD TO HAVE HIM
|When the Rockies traded Josh Outman (again, love that name for a pitcher) for Stubbs in the winter of 2013/2014, I was surprised they went after Drew Stubbs. Stubbs had a big breakout season back in 2010 as a 25 year-old CF for the Reds, hitting 22 homers while swiping 30 bags. His .255 BA was an issue, but his decent .329 OBP showed he was on the verge of becoming a star and a fixture with the Reds teams on the ascendency.
But whether it was playing for Dusty Baker, too many expectations, or just he had hit his ceiling as a hitter, 2010 was his high-water mark. His 2011 season was okay, hitting .243/.321 with 11 homers and 40 steals, but his OPS dropped nearly 100 points from .773 to .686. Oh, and he led the league in Ks that year, not what you want from a speed guy. His OPS+ which was 105 in 2010 (making him better than league average) dived into the 80s and 60s after that, and he was quietly dealt to the Indians in 2013, at age 28 a 4th outfielder, with time running out on his value to a team. His year in Cleveland did little to elevate his status (an OPS of 88), but the Rockies saw something, something that would play in Colorado, and without having to give up much (Outman’s WHIP in 2013 with the Rox was 1.412 and in Cleveland in 2014, 1.541, though he was good in New York down the stretch as a left-one-out guy), Dan O’Dowd did one of his subtle deals he was actually pretty good at (yes, I was an O’Dowd supporter, but agreed it was time for a change).
Drew came to the Rox with a clear expectation that he was a platoon, playing against lefties (a career .282 hitter against lefties with an .823 OPS, so not a bad bat for a platoon) and a late-inning defensive replacement (for Blackmon or Cuddy). While the UZR defensive zone metrics show Stubbs to be below average, his speed is a plus defensively and from the “eye test” he looks at least league average. I am guessing the team thought he might play in 100 games, with around 200 PAs.
Well, the plan didn’t work out like that, but it actually worked out much better than they could have hoped for when the deal was made.
Instead of 100 games, Stubbs played in 132. Instead of 200 PAs, he got 424 (such was the injury bug in 2014 that a player they didn’t want to use against righties got 277 PA against righties alone. And the former 8th overall pick in the infamous 2006 draft (the Greg Reynolds instead of Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Miller, Tim Lincecum, Matt Sherzer, Ian Kennedy draft that has produced I think 7 Cy Youngs and a record of 290-178 from the 3 Cy Young winners…oof), finally found himself as a player again.
Now, we have to be honest. If the Rox had run Stubbs out there for 600 AB like he got in Cinnci, he doesn’t have the year he had in fact. But if you want to look to “back-up MVP of the Year” I think Stubbs has it.
Here is his breakdown for 2014:
Overall 424 PA 388 AB 22 2B 4 3B 15 HR .289 BA .339 OBP .482 Slug .821 OPS 187 TB 20 SB/ 3 CS 136K/30 BB OPS+ 115
Home 225 PA 208 AB 15 2B 1 3B 12 HR .356 BA .388 OBP .611 Slug .999 OPS 127 TB 11 SB/1 CS 58K/13 BB
Road 199 PA 180 AB 7 2B 3 3B 3 HR .211 BA .283 OBP .616 Slug .616 OPS 60 TB 9 SB/2 CS 78K/17 BB
Vs. R 277 PA 257 AB 16 2B 3 3B 8 HR .268 BA .309 OBP .447 Slug .757 OPS 115 TB 12 SB/3 CS 92K/15 BB
Vs. L 147 PA 131 AB 6 2B 1 3B 7 HR .328 BA .395 OBP .550 Slug .944 OPS 72 TB 8 SB/0 CS 44L/15 BB
Stubbs was slightly better against righty starters than righty relievers, but slightly better against lefty relievers than lefty starters, for what that is worth.
So, after being stuck in park from 2011-2013, he produced a 2.5 WAR season worth (again FanGraphs) $13.6 million (for an actual salary of $4.1 million). I think we can deem this trade a success.
For those of us who watched most of the season’s games we remember how it seemed all of Stubb’s hits early (especially against righties) were infield hits where his speed earned him a bag. We may also remember the big homer in Arizona to get back the lead in a game that went south for the team in the bullpen. We remember seeing him far more as a sub than a starter, at least early, and overall he had 92 games as a starter and 40 as a sub, with far better results as a sub (.279 BA/.794OPS vs. .378 BA/ 1.074 as a sub). Stubbs got off to a slow start, thanks to limited Abs in April but got hot in May (.255/.635 vs. .368/.992), which earned him more playing time in June, which saw his numbers return to the mean before a better July playing less (.277/.809 vs. .300/.944). He finished the season about right where you expect, with an August of .270/.713 and a September of .269/.858.
So what do we have overall? Well, I have often heard the adage from ballplayers that hitting is contagious. Clearly slumping is as well as Stubbs’s numbers reflect the team-wide failure to hit on the road. As I look at player after player it is not just a slight reduction from the home numbers, or even a substantial reduction. What we are seeing is substantial declines. The question for Rockies management is – who are these guys? Are they their home numbers and this was just a wacky season with slumping as a shared suffering? Are they their road numbers, in which case this team is farther away than we can imagine. Are they somewhere in between calling for serious review of each player, looking at each player’s individual AB, individual swing, the pitches and the whole thing. Of course they should look at this but at some level it is still guess work. While Stubbs is now 29 going on 30, player can figure it out later in life (see Chris Davis and Kubler of the Indians for examples). But how much can they count on Stubbs? And an even bigger question – is this a player they want to re-sign after the year? Is there a chance to re-sign him? Is this team going to compete in 2015? If not to those questions, then Stubbs will likely not be higher in value than he is now. And in that case…you deal him.
But Drew likes it here, seems to have accepted the 4th/5th outfielder role, and the value the team places on him. So maybe he does want to come back. And maybe this team is going to compete this year. And maybe Stubbs has figured it out and can be counted on for such statistics going forward (with better road numbers I hope). And it is never a bad thing to have a guy going into his first free agent contract. So, Stubbs could be an interesting player in 2015.
Home: A-, based both upon the role he had to fill, and his ability to step up and then start over half the games. He gave them power (something in short supply around the league and even with the Rox last year), great base running, solid defense, and better than expected numbers versus righties.
Road: C-, for much of the same reason as so many of the players on this team. He still played good defense, but his power almost completely disappeared. His K/BB ration exploded on the road as well, leading to lots of empty PA on the road. But he wasn’t as bad as a lot of players and again, he wasn’t expected to be a starter or a star with this team. He did win a few games with his bat this year on the road, something few can say on the Rockies.
Overall Grade: B-, here I am probably being over-generous, but he has to be evaluated based on what the expectations were and how well he filled it (just as most 2B would fail to make the HOF if compared against all hitter but can be elected when measured against one-another). Stubbs came over for a pitcher who the team couldn’t trust in key situations. And he came over here and was deserving of his starts, even in the crowded outfield, and his 15 HR/20 SB is something a lot of teams wish they had on their roster. That being said, he doesn’t deserve a higher grade because of the high number of empty PA. Maybe he should get a B, but those H/R splits still point to where this team failed.